Aesthetic appeal is obviously an important component of interior finishes such as flooring. However, there are a myriad of other factors required to provide more than just a positive first impression. As interior designers, we are constantly researching products and reviewing quality of construction, durability, and environmental impacts. We consider conversations with our clients regarding maintenance procedures and goals to be crucial for selecting the most appropriate product for each application.
Enduring appeal requires not only quality materials and manufacturing, but also proper maintenance for each flooring type.
Resilient flooring, engineered from a combination of natural and synthetic polymer materials, is a durable option found in a range of commercial spaces including offices, schools, senior living, hotels, restaurants and hospitals. Options include commercial sheet vinyl, vinyl composition tile (VCT), luxury vinyl tile (LVT), also known as resilient tile and plank, linoleum, rubber sheet or tile, and bio based tile (BBT) which is produced with rapidly renewable resources.
The range of options is steadily increasing with resilient flooring that closely replicates the look and style of materials like concrete, stone, and wood with sustainable options made from recycled products. Valued for its durability, these products typically require less frequent replacement than carpet in high traffic areas. Recent advances in underlayment and resilient flooring construction also help with noise reduction for these products.
Resilient Flooring Maintenance:
Proper maintenance begins as soon as construction is complete by dry mopping with a micro fiber pad or appropriate vacuum to remove any dust. Then use a micro fiber wet mop with a neutral pH cleaner, working in small sections to mop before the solution dries. If there is any residue, mop with water.
Minimize traffic for the first 24 hours and wait four days before starting routine wet cleaning or auto scrubbing. Apply industrial strength felt protection to furniture bases and legs.
When it comes to regular maintenance, the first step is minimizing the amount of dirt that comes into the building with walk-off mats: for soil removal at the entrance and to absorb moisture on the interior.
Regular sweeping, dust mopping or vacuuming removes dirt particles that can abrade the top layer. Spills should be addressed quickly, using water or a neutral pH vinyl cleaner if necessary for most spills, isopropyl alcohol or mineral spirits for grease. Scuffs can removed with an auto scrubber or spray buffing. For a lower tech alternative, a tennis ball placed on the end of a broom handle also works to buff out smaller areas.
Always mop or vacuum prior to any wet cleaning methods. Use a neutral pH cleaner and then rinse the floor with clean water, repeating the rinse if necessary to remove a film or haze. Common mopping systems are microfiber wet mop, mop and two bucket system or automatic scrubbing with appropriate manufacturer-recommended brushes.
While the range of durable and aesthetically pleasing options has increased the use of resilient flooring in commercial applications, carpet is sometimes preferred for its comfort, safety, and acoustic value. According to the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), carpet lessens the chance for slips and falls, reduces noise and creates an added feeling of warmth and cushioning. Particularly in open areas like today’s offices and public stairways, or in settings like hotels or apartment buildings, carpet can help to absorb sounds and improve acoustics. Carpet provides insulation and thermal resistance (R-value) and, according to CRI, has the lowest level of volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions of common flooring choices.
Broadloom carpet, woven on a wide loom, is typically available in 12 foot rolls. Carpet tiles, with an integrated backing material and base, are typically 36 or 24 square inches. Many manufacturers have also started offering a narrower “plank” that is commonly 12 by 36 inches.
Carpet tiles have become increasingly popular in high-traffic commercial applications since damaged or soiled tiles can be easily replaced.
Both broadloom carpet and carpet tiles meet current environmental standards, and are often partially comprised of post-consumer recycled materials. Both types can be reclaimed and recycled where facilities exist.
Daily maintenance can substantially extend the life of your carpet. As with resilient flooring, the first step is minimizing the amount of dirt that reaches the carpet through the use of entrance mats. Mats should also be considered for food service areas, water coolers and restrooms.
For regular maintenance, vacuuming can remove 80 to 85 percent of dry soil according to Shaw Floors, with the proper manufacturer-recommended vacuum and appropriate equipment maintenance including filter cleaning/replacement.
Spots and spills should be promptly addressed with cleaners approved by the manufacturer or that are listed in the CRI Seal of Approval (SOA) program. Solvent-based spot treatments should be used for oil or grease. In the case of stains that have resulted in discoloring, specialty products are available such as Pro’s Choice.
Encapsulation, a process using cleaning agents and a specialized machine, or walk-behind extractors using CRI approved cleaning agents, can be used for interim cleaning. Bonnet cleaning—applying a mixture of water and cleaning product on the surface of the carpet and then scrubbing with a rotating motion machine that looks like a floor buffer—is not recommended.
Deep cleaning involves a hot water or low pH rinse agent extraction process after regular vacuuming. Apply an approved pre-spray cleaning agent and then agitate with a mechanical brush. Air movers are recommended to expedite drying and be sure your facility HVAC is on during deep cleaning and at least 12 hours after completion.
For commercial design, both carpet and resilient flooring offer many viable options and in many cases, the final result will be a mix of the two. With proper care, either option can provide years of visual appeal and lasting value.
Blog Editor: Jodi Kreider, LEED AP